Recently, I watched a video of John MacArthur’s opening address at a conference. MacArthur, an influential Evangelical with Calvinist roots, use the speech to attack the Charismatic Movement during the “Strange Fire Conference.” The core argument of his attack is that Charismatics are worshiping God incorrectly and therefore dishonor God. According to MacArthur, many of the practices attributed to the Holy Spirit are actually from Satan. MacArthur asserts that although some people have been saved in Charismatic churches, most the people are in darkness. MacArthur adds a further insult stating that Charismatic theology has added nothing positive to Christianity.
I personally have issues with a few aspects of the Charismatic movement. However, I’m not about to label an entire movement and its adherents as “in league with the Devil” because I don’t agree with how they worship or because of theological disagreement. To do that is arrogant. The Charismatic movement has added vibrancy and richness to Church.
MacArthur’s claims are based on a fundamental error. He is trusting in his theology rather than in Jesus. MacArthur knows that he is saved and that he is worshiping correctly because he knows his theology is correct. He can argue chapter and verse his interpretation, if you were to get in a theological debate with him, believe me, he would win. He is a master debater. MacArthur knows he is right! And because he knows he is right, he believes he is justified in labeling a half-a-million Charismatics as false worshipers. They, according to MacArthur, offer strange fire to the Lord and he consigns them to Hell. MacArthur has appointed himself as a gatekeeper to heaven.
What a shame MacArthur doesn’t trust Jesus. MacArthur believes that Salvation comes from professing correct belief and confessing correct theology. His correct confession is evidence that he has received Grace. If he professed the wrong theology, then he wouldn’t be saved, and he hasn’t received Grace. He trusts his correctness more than he trusts the character and nature of Jesus.
I’ll admit that sometimes my theology may be wrong, and I would fail a test of orthodoxy in one of John MacArthur’s classes at The Master’s Seminary, but I trust in Jesus. I trust in a Jesus who is good, loving and kind. My Jesus isn’t a theology professor handing out Salvation on a pass/fail system based on perfection; My Jesus is scandalously graceful, to steal a phrase from Phillip Yancy, and offers me salvation in spite of all my wrongheaded ideas.
As a Calvinist, MacArthur’s view of God is one of a cold and cruel master who creates humans for condemnation offering Salvation to a few. You can know who the “chosen” are because they have correct theology and they worship correctly. You can also know who God is sending to hell because. . . well you know they don’t agree with Reformed theology.
Worship is a matter of the heart. It is your heart telling Jesus you love Him. Is there a wrong way to do that? I can profess “correct” theology and worship in the “correct” manner, but if my heart is not engaged, then I am not worshipping. My good, graceful, loving Jesus accepts my feeble attempts at worship. He accepts I might be singing the wrong songs; I might be singing songs with bad theology in the lyrics; I might be too exuberant or not exuberant enough. He accepts these things because from my innermost being, I’m trying to tell Him I love Him.
Imagine this scenario; a child draws a picture as a gift for a parent. The child’s intent is to give the parent a gift of love and appreciation. After the child has finished the picture, it is presented with a smiling face and outstretched hands. The parent takes the picture and critiques it. The perspective is wrong, the proportions are incorrect, and the sun is the wrong color. The parent screams at the child “You have dishonored me! Your feeble attempt at expressing love is WRONG!” and then beats and tortures the child for the rest of his life. You and I would rightly call Child Protective Services on such an abusive parent. MacArthur would need to “correctly” applaud such a good parent as reflecting the god he serves. In MacArthur’s view of God, he is a judge who determines rewards and punishments based on correctness and very few, like MacArthur, get it right.
I’ll stick with the loving parent who loves my childish scrawls. I’ll stick with “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7 NIV) I’ll trust Jesus, who knows my heart, rather than my score in theology class.
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